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Friday, August 27, 2010

Interview with David J. Williams (by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official David J. Williams Website
Read FBC Review of Mirrored Heavens
Read FBC Review of Burning Skies
Read FBC Review of The Machinery of Light

1] According to your bio, you graduated as a history major then worked a corporate job & also moonlighted in video game design & production. Then along the way you wrote the Autumn Rain trilogy & it got picked up in 2007, could you flesh out these series of events for your readers as it seems that there's more to it than just those lines?

DJW] No, that's pretty much it. I clawed my way up the corporate ladder from 1996 onward, and moonlighted on the Homeworld video game in the late 1990s. Which made me realize what I really wanted to do for a living! So I started writing the Autumn Rain trilogy in 2000 with what little spare time I had. Finished and sold it in 2007, quit my "executive" job two weeks later, and haven't looked back since.

2] Now that you are done with the trilogy, could you tell us about how the idea for this series germinated & how did you go along sketching it out?

DJW] Science fiction was off chasing fantasy with stories of singularity rapture and far-future space opera, while the cyberpunk dream of the state fading away never made much sense to me. I sensed an untapped area in near-future narrative, and laid my plans accordingly.

3] When you majored in history, what period did you focus on? What made you choose history as your major & lastly which period in the vast history of mankind attracts your attention the most [from purely a history buff point of view?]

DJW] I didn't focus. That's my problem. I'm a total dilettante when it comes to my history obsession, which is one reason among many why academia would be a real nightmare for me. For me it's Carthage vs. Rome one day, and Ming China's treasure fleets the next.

4] When you began writing this trilogy, did you have set any goals in regards to the books & plot? What do you feel now that you have completed the trilogy, how much of your set goals did you achieve?

DJW] To be way-too-candid with you, my goal was to turn science fiction on its @#$#*&* head. I can't exactly claim to have accomplished that yet, but I believe there's no shame in swinging for the fence. In fact, merely getting published is in itself so difficult that the only ambition that gets you there is one that burns so hot it hurts.

5] Many reviewers have noticed this aspect of your writing; you often switched POVs in between pages and kept the readers on their toes. Do you think this hampered the read for some readers who aren't used to this style? What was your reasoning behind writing the books in this way?

DJW] It might have hampered the read for some, but I like to challenge my readers. Be warned, though, these are NOT books to be skimmed. You will be miserable if you try that.

6] Now as a history buff myself; it was particularly fun to read your imagined future history & events timeline how did you come up with this stuff, what was your basis for these geo-political extrapolations?

DJW] My basis was to envision the realization of the worst nightmare for U.S. foreign policy: a peer competitor/rival superpower that gains control of the Eurasian landmass. The Nazis and the Soviets came close, but failed. But what would happen if somebody succeeded?

7] When did you first start out as a reader, what where the types of books that you loved & who are your literary idols? Lastly any colleagues of yours, whom you would like to, give a shout out to?

DJW] I grew up reading the usual suspects (Heinlein, Herbert, Asimov, Harrison, Gibson), but my real literary idol is Thucydides. As to colleagues, I'll simply note that without Peter Watts, the Autumn Rain trilogy would never have been published. And if his brilliant short story "The Island" doesn't win the Hugo next month, there's no justice in the world.

8] Your website also lists some of the cool weapons/arsenal which has been mentioned in the books, how did you think up these concepts? Did you base them on any current weaponry models? How far away do you think we are from realizing these models or similar stuff like it?

DJW] The U.S. military (and the Chinese and Russian) have given this some serious thought, as they know the evolution of warfare ultimately leads into space. Space is already militarized; every time a GI in Iraq uses GPS, that's using space-based hardware. The question is what happens when people start putting weapons up there.

9] Last year I read about how Jerry Pournelle got a tad peeved with you in regards to the scientific facts being used in your books, roughly a year has passed, what are your recollections about that particular event?

DJW] You can read my detailed account of the incident here, though your eyes might start to glaze over at the parts where Pournell's supporters pile onto the comments to accuse me of being a KGB dupe.

10] On the topic of the trilogy ending, what are your thoughts about any further stories set in same world or are you done with it completely?

DJW] I don't rule out returning to the world of the Second Cold War, but there will no sequels. There's way too many authors in science fiction who have zero intention of finishing their series for me to want to join that club.

11] In regards to cover art, what are your thoughts on the covers for all three of your books? Do you feel that they were appropriate for the content inside?

DJW] Bantam #$# rocked the covers. I can't say enough good things about them. They really captured that cyberpunk-meets-espionage-and-guns-in-space vibe.

12] This is just me, but amongst the names of all your books, I particularly loved "The Machinery of Light" and thought it to be very apropos with the plot as well. How did you conjure it?

DJW] No idea. I remember it was a fall day in 2002, I'd just gotten home from work. I googled it and felt I had it made. Of course, I still hadn't learnt to write back then…

13] Now that you are done with these military SF thrillers, what will you be tackling next in terms of genre, could you tell us about what new book idea you're working on or are planning on working on soon?

DJW] I'm working on an unrelated science fiction screenplay, and also some alternative-history/ fantasy novels that are gonna rock 'n shock ya!

14] I thought the space warfare concept which was perpetrated in your book to be scary as well as prophetic at the same time, could you gives us your thoughts on this futuristic aspect of warfare?

DJW] The key is that you can't view space warfare in isolation. It will occur in tandem with the maturity of directed energy weaponry, and also has to be seen as integrated with cyberwarfare. Put another way, if I control your phone lines and your satellites, I control your internet, no matter how many manifestos on the freedom of information you've written.

15] Lastly this is just a pet peeve of mine, but I truly felt that all three books would translate nicely onto the silver screen, so if granted an infinite budget how would you like to see it adapted & who would you like to see enact the characters?

DJW] No idea about the actors, but I'd do this as a 12 part TV miniseries, only you'd hear the F-word instead of all those fracking "fracks.

16] Lastly any other thoughts or comments you would like the readers with?

DJW] Buy my books, people. My cats will thank you even if I don't.


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